‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
I was an arrogant stripling in my teenage years, an infuriating know it all. I was also an insufferable chauvinistic pig , my poor sister probably bore the brunt of those years but so did the few female classmates who seemed overly interested in me and would land up at my house without invitation . Perhaps the quality of those girls was suspect but my egoism and scorn for the female gender just got worse as time passed and I was convinced that getting married was probably the dumbest thing that anybody could do. Add to that arrogance a general contempt for the foibles and fallacies of the common man and a general conviction that an IQ test be administered before one is allowed to breed and you have the perfect bachelor, not that he is perfect but his air of smugness would ensure that it would drive away any self respecting woman within a radius of a 100 miles.
The idea of being bound to a single woman seemed like fiction, something that I could not even begin to fathom because it seemed so ridiculously absurd . Matrimony seemed akin to a prison that a man unwillingly walks into, blackmailed into , forced into by social norms, by parents who having undergone the ordeal of matrimony and who cannot endure the thought that their offspring be happy forever or perhaps more charitably put, a myth specifically perpetrated on the human race to ensure the survival of children, in short social norms formed the walls of this prison . The price of breaking through these walls are worse than breaking through prison walls, one is ostracized for life so fear keeps us in check.
I was convinced that blissful bachelorhood was the fate that I was destined for, I was certainly going to fight tooth and nail to ensure that , I was compiling a long list of arguments that I was going to offer my dad when time would come by when he would insist on me getting handcuffed to some girl who would probably be as unwilling as me . My arguments and demands were as follows
- I want to travel the world , wife and family will hamper that
- I want to read all the great books and unless she is as interested in reading those great books and discuss with me, I will not marry her because it needs to be a wavelength match . I know what I want and don’t mind being alone.
- She should be exceptionally fair (good luck finding that in my caste)
- She should also be exceptionally beautiful otherwise I might get enticed by the next beautiful woman who comes along. Only way to guard against that is to make sure that she was exceptionally beautiful
- She should be a cook as good as my dad or my mom (I was firmly convinced that 4 and 5 are mutually exclusive)
- She has to smarter than me (I was arrogance personified and I just knew that to be not possible )
- She should know as many languages as I do , through an happy accident of fate, I could speak 5 languages fluently and learning two more so I knew damn well and certain that I would never find anybody else who could .
- She should be exceptionally good humored and keep me in good humor at all times (a tall order!!)
- She should be extremely patient.
- She should never criticize me , merely lovingly correct me
- She should encourage me to reach for the stars and if things get too hard then provide TLC as she lovingly continues to encourage me.
Having just graduated from high school with grades that I perceived as a cut above the rest ,I thought no end of myself , I was self assured and deliriously over confident with a chip on my shoulder , the world was for my taking. High school was a place of known rules and restrictions with definite and concrete consequences for breaking the rules . These rules envelopes one into a comfortable cocoon . Like moths bursting out of a cocoon , we were introduced to a college which had no rules , no strictures that would be dealt with stark punishments when violated . The sudden liberty got most of us intoxicated and it was followed by two years of wasted potential. Years later , I would encounter this quote and still marvel at its brilliance and succinct wisdom
Sudden power is apt to be insolent, sudden liberty saucy; that behaves best which has grown gradually
Pride comes before a fall , always . You can have a million and one reasons not to fall in love but when Cupid’s arrow finally finds it mark , the million reasons vanish quicker than hope after a lottery announcement. Cupid finally had me in his sights on a sunny July morning.While everybody around me seemed to be in awe of my mysterious silence and other sundry qualities that had been automatically assigned to me thanks to my seemingly impenetrable aura of silence , she seemed blissfully unaware and could penetrate my ‘invincible’ shield at will . She had several weapons at her disposal and I would have been utterly helpless against any one of these let alone the entire armory , first off she had her own feisty irrepressible sense of humor that could send me into peals of laughter, her voice sounded like the musical tinkling of bells ;a celebration of sorts by themselves that I could listen to for hours , her eyes had a mesmerizing quality that could freeze me in place , a heady ,intoxicating fragrance always enveloped her , utterly self assured she seemed to have little or no trouble putting me in my place and while these interactions would send me to a fit of fury, she also seemed to know mysteriously how to calm me down just as quickly and as if all these qualities were not enough she was extremely beautiful. With magic like this in the air , it would hardly come as a surprise to anyone but me that I quickly and completely fell in love with her. I was not old enough to understand what I felt or even what she meant to me and that those feelings are meant to be encountered only once in a lifetime . Having overdosed myself on Ayn Rand’s philosophy as spouted in the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, I had come to regard altruism as contemptible . But falling in love changed my purpose in life ; overnight altruism seemed all too essential . Seeing her smiling face was the only thing that made me happy . I existed just to make her happy . In that spirit seeing her unhappy made me miserable ,or anybody passing lewd comments made me near homicidal . I developed a pathological hatred for some of these folks and tried my damnedest to sabotage them in anyway that I could , with all the enthusiasm of an overconfident , hormone crazy teenager. In short everything in my life was transformed the moment that I met her ; I was totally and completely in love. It was as though my life before her was a black and white morass transformed overnight into a rich feast of colors , sounds , taste and sensation ; a sumptuous feast of life ,there was no other time in my life that I can remember having that zest for life as I had felt in those days. Those days were heady and intoxicating, years later I would learn that the oxytocins that the brain releases when you are in love are the same as released by cocaine , no wonder that drug addicts had such a hard time giving it up. As time passed , I knew that there would be nobody else that could walk in her stead and I decided on the unthinkable , I actually decided to tell her that I was in love with her and was ready to walk the path of monogamy with her , the same path of monogamy that I had always scoffed at, but in this case monogamy was not something to be dreaded but welcomed like a prized crown jewel, it would be the crowning glory of my life . I suddenly encountered a thorny problem, with all my knowledge and my reading and my erudition , I had a realization that I had missed out on learning some basic life skills ,namely asking a girl out. Some of my so called friends came to the rescue and I had an eclectic collection of solutions from these idiots . Though you will agree that I am the biggest idiot for considering these solutions.
- Hang out around her house all the time . After all we covet what we see so to make her covet me, make sure that she sees me everyday (this was advice from one who was obsessed with Silence of the Lambs, I am still waiting to see if his girlfriend disappears).
- Send her a letter , letting her know how I felt . This posed a second thorny problem , how to present it to her . So more idiotic solutions followed which only raised more questions
- Mail it to her house .Question -How do I get the address????
- Steal a book from her bag and slip the letter into the book . Q – How will she know to look and who is going to steal ?
- Borrow a book and then slip it in. Q- same problem as above
- Have my friend deliver it
- Have her friend deliver it .Q – Who was to approach her friend?
- Telegram it . Q – Again begs for the home address?
- If I was worried about her reaction to the letter then write the letter in code and deliver it, that way she would not be able to decipher what was written. This particular idiot works on Wall street for a big investment firm these days , probably caused the financial catastrophe of 2008 all by himself !!!
- Have one of my friends tell her how I felt and propose on my behalf (Hopefully it would be a loyal friend who would not interject his own proposal to her)
- Call her on the phone and tell her. Q – How do I get the Phone number???
Finally the pressure of desiring to let her know overcame me and I ended up creating acquaintances with undesirables for the sole purpose of getting her phone number instead of just asking her. The length to which I was willing to go for her had already convinced me that there was nothing that I would not do for her with the exception of being utterly honest with her about my feelings for her. I worshiped the ground she walked on , but paradoxically I would not tolerate chinks in my aura of fake invulnerability , priorities in life is a lesson that is hard to learn and harder to apply.So finally I managed to make that dreaded phone call, and as soon as I heard her voice , I froze up . I could not bring myself to tell her the reason for calling her, instead asked her about her dog . Needless to say, she was quite miffed but somehow deep down I knew that she already knew why I was calling. After 5 such calls where I asked about the dog, the chemistry homework, the physics practical , the botany exam and the location of the class (which never changed) , I shot out “I lvu” , understandably she was confused and asked me to repeat myself at which time, the syllables flowed out a little slower , just a little slower but enough to be comprehensible, “I lv u” . There was a short pause and then she said very coldly “So” . I don’t think that I have ever been deflated so quickly , so effectively, so ruthlessly , so completely. I listened in stunned disbelief , my emotions trampled underneath a giant steam roller, I would rather than I had been trampled underneath that steam roller instead of my emotions, humiliation surged through me like a hot knife through butter, my cheeks flushed and I could suddenly understand the sentiment of wanting the earth to open up and swallow me whole.After what seemed like an eternity , I heard my voice from another world snap “What do you mean by so? ” To which she responded just cool as a cucumber ,”What do you want me to do?” I could endure the humiliation no longer so I simply hung up.
The burning humiliation of the cold contemptuous rejection was like septic bile surging through my system . The impotence of rage finally gave in to the only possible avenue open to me, I cut off all ties . Eventually the foolishness of youth and the unhappy happenstances of providence cascaded into a series of decisions where by I ended up losing her before I ever had a chance to ask her to marry me.
The erstwhile quote from Tennyson has always bugged me . I wonder if Tennyson really understood what he meant , to me it sounds like he could duck hunt with a rake when he wrote that.
But I realize now that perhaps it was my former arrogance, my withering contempt for all and sundry that had come back to haunt me as a sense of contempt for myself because now I longer measured up to her and was obsessed with the incessant need to better myself , do something worthwhile so that I could be worthy of her . That was the effect she had on me, she made me want to be a better man .So maybe Tennyson did know what he was talking about.